Swing and a Miss – May 29, 2013

Random thoughts on a Wednesday night…

No Need to Harp on It.  Last week in San Francisco, Bryce Harper misplayed another ball in right field.   As Harper pursued a well-struck fly ball by Gregor Blanco in the ninth inning, Harper appeared to flinch and pull up even though he was still multiple feet short of the right field wall.  After the game, Harper acknowledged that his encounter last week with the wall in Los Angeles was at least a contributing factor in turning the final out into a game-tying triple.  I believe that last night’s misplay and Harper’s collision in Los Angeles were examples of Harper’s inexperience as an outfielder.

For as good as Harper is, he is still only 20 years old, and he is essentially learning the outfield at the major league level.  Harper was predominantly a catcher during his abbreviated high school and college days and only transitioned to the outfield after being drafted by the Nationals.  Going into the game in San Francisco, Harper had played just over 300 professional games in the outfield (129 in the minors, 171 in the majors).  However, he has only played a total of 107 games in right field (57 in the minors, 50 in the majors), which is the equivalent of two-thirds of a season.  Additionally, during Harper’s rookie year, he started 65% of his games in centerfield.  In other words, Harper has very little experience in right field.  Therefore, it is unsurprising that he is having difficulty reading a fly ball or assessing his proximity to the fence.  These are skills and instincts that a player develops over the course of many years.  It would be naïve to think that Harper would be impervious to some growing pains on defense.

Not so Sorry-ano.  In the same game, Nationals closer Rafael Soriano blamed Bryce Harper’s misplay for the blown save.  According to USA Today, Soriano stated:

“With two outs and the tying run at first, you have to play the outfield so the ball doesn’t go over your head,” Soriano said in Spanish.

“It may not have been a catch-able ball, but if we’re positioned the right way, there might have been a different outcome. With two outs, I could tell my four-year-old son, ‘You know where you need to play,’ and he would go to the right spot to make the play. It’s not an excuse, and I’m not speaking badly about anybody, but I think that’s how you play the game.”

Soriano took no responsibility for the fact that he threw a terrible pitch and failed to acknowledge that Blanco hit a rope.  Instead, he laid the blame for the loss at Harper’s feet.  Predictably, Soriano backed off his comments the following day and acknowledged that he threw a poor pitch.

Soriano’s attempt to shirk all responsibility is not an isolated incident.  Soriano is the same guy who refused to talk to the press after he blew a game as a Yankee, leaving his teammates to answer all the questions about Soriano’s subpar performance.  Soriano apologized for refusing to speak to the media the next day.

But, isn’t there a pattern here?  Soriano simply does not like being the goat and is unwilling to take responsibility for a loss.  Soriano is the six-year old child who refuses to acknowledge that he did anything wrong until his parents force him to apologize.  This immature attitude is clearly not the ideal character trait for a closer.  Hey, Soriano, you want to be bask in the glory of recording a save and “untuck” your shirt?  Well, you also have be willing to be held accountable when you fail to perform your job.

Just a Ramblin’ Man.  As an English major in college, I was required to participate in a variety of different writing exercises.  One such exercise involved using a narrative device known as “stream of consciousness.”  The idea was to simply write down everything that came into your mind, which would theoretically provide a glimpse into a person’s thought process.  You were not supposed to think about properly constructing the sentence or even ensure what you were writing was even coherent.

I think back to these classes whenever I hear Al Leiter provide baseball analysis.  He disjointedly rambles without ever making an actual point.  Take this excerpt from MLB Tonight from last Thursday on why the Pirates have been successful this season:

How about, they’re 11 over.  They’re 11 over.  I think Jason Grilli, and [Harold Reynolds] you touched on it, is a great story.  And Hanrahan was a great closer, there’s no doubt about it – what he was able to do for the Pirates.  But, when you look within, and you mentioned about Neal Huntington, of what you have, there are guys stepping up internally.  I thought the Vin Mazzaro pick up was nice.  Tony Watson and Justin Miller, they have also now helped solidify.  But, it all goes back to this.  A strong bullpen and the opportunity that Jason Grilli has had – now 19 for 19 – he’s been awesome.  A.J. Burnett has been very good, Jeff Locke, I love this young pitcher here, coming up, an ERA of 2.7.  Wandy Rodriguez has been legit.  They have the second best ERA in the major leagues.  [cuts off Reynolds]  I mean.   When you think about it.  Think about it.   And, Francisco Liriano.  I don’t know how long that’s going to go….it’s been very good, Greg. 

I am having a panic attack just reading this.  Somewhere deep inside these words, Leiter has a point, but his brain simply cannot spit it out.  Instead, every time he attempts to make a cogent point, his brain jumps to some other thought.  And, amazingly enough, Leiter never pauses when he speaks.  It is just one giant run-on sentence.  He has parentheticals within parentheticals.

I Hate Being Right All the Time.   When I first saw commercials for MLB Now, I was scared that MLB Network was trying to replicate the debate format that ESPN so willingly utilizes.  I actually wrote a post expressing my concerns.  Well, my darkest fears appear to have been realized.  Last week Harold Reynolds said this:

A middle school student knows what run differential is.  This type of feigned ignorance is precisely the problem with the “debate” format.   Harold Reynolds is on the show to be Brian Kenny’s foil, and he must fill that role even if he insults everyone’s intelligence in the process.  Please.  Stop.

In New Jersey, You Have the Right to Let Someone Else Pump Your Gas – Not to Be a Varsity Athlete.  First, there was The Real Housewives of New Jersey.  Then there was Jersey Shore, which led to Snooki and JWoww.  Recently, the state university of New Jersey – Rutgers – has been thrust into the national spotlight due to multiple scandals involving an abusive basketball coach and a new athletic director who has been accused of mentally abusing college athletes in the past.

I assumed that this was the bottom.  I thought that there was nothing further that could come out to cast the State of New Jersey in a worse light.  Then this happens:  a New Jersey man is suing a high school because his son was cut from the track team.  Ervin Mears is suing on behalf of his son, Mawusimensah Mears, and is seeking $40 million as well as varsity letters and championship jackets for his son, who is a sophomore.  Mears believes that his son’s rights have been violated because he was kicked off the track team at Sterling Regional High School in Camden County.

According to The Philadelphia Inquirer, Mears believes that “participation in extracurricular activities is a right” and that it is “unfair” for the school to not let his son compete.   In fact, Mr. Mears’s son was kicked off the team for multiple unexcused absences from practice.  So, Mr. Mears apparently believes playing a varsity sport in high school is a right and this right is inalienable in the sense that there is no need to earn that right by – per example – actually showing up to practice.

I know we now live in an age of entitlement and everyone in this generation grew up receiving participation medals, but playing a varsity sport in high school is not a right.  It is something that requires talent, hard work, and dedication.  And, I am sorry, but sometimes a kid is simply not talented enough to participate in a varsity sport.  At some point, someone is going to tell you, “no.”

Yankee Fans Need to Take It Easy.  Tonight, the Mets beat the Yankees for the third night in a row and, judging by Twitter, some Yankee fans are apoplectic.  I have one word for these fans:  relax.  The Yankees are guaranteed to be at least six games over .500 when May ends (they are 30-22 with two games left this month).  Back in April, every Yankee fan would have signed up for this result.  Given the number of injuries, the first two months of the season could not have gone any better.  Therefore, even if the Mets sweep this four game series, there shouldn’t be any Yankee fans complaining.

This Makes Me Feel Ancient.  Derek Jeter made his major league debut eighteen years ago today against the Seattle Mariners.  (He batted ninth and went 0 for 5.)  In honor of this moment, here is a great quote that Derek Jeter gave to Yankees Magazine in May 1996:  “My folks taught me at a very young age that there may be people that have more talent than you, but there’s no excuse for anyone to work harder than you do – and I believe that.”